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After two months at Northeastern, the "girl-on-girl" make-out session had become inevitable at parties, but Julie still hadn't kissed a woman herself. Then she and a female friend showed up at a party without the $5 cover charge, and she suddenly realized that girl-on-girl action could be a form of currency. "I said to the guy, 'What if we make out? Will you let us in for free?' He said, 'Yep, do it.' I knew it'd be something that [the guys] were into which would get us what we wanted -- to save $10."
Kissing girls started earlier for Alexandra, a 16-year-old high school junior in Bellingham, Wash., a town close to the Canadian border. In ninth grade, she says, at a party where the beer was scarce, two of her friends made out with each other for a beer. "The guys were cheering it on and encouraging it," she says. "I thought it was cool that [the girls] got all the attention, and the guys obviously liked it. I went up to them and was like, 'Wow, that was crazy!' They were like, 'Oh yeah, you've never done that before?'"
While same-sex hooking up among teens has been in the news lately -- kids who consider themselves questioning and talk about their sexuality as fluid have been splashed across the pages of major magazines and newspapers -- Alexandra (who has kissed six girls) and Julie (who has kissed 10), and the countless other young women like them, don't think of themselves as bisexual, or even "bi-curious." They're firmly straight, they say, but they'll kiss their friends as a performance for guys -- either for material gain, like free entry or alcohol, or to advertise that they're sexually open and adventurous. "A lot of the time, you're doing it to show off to the guy you like," says Alexandra. "They like it, so they're going to like you if you do it."
These women say it's no big deal to kiss another woman -- especially if alcohol has loosened inhibitions all around. Same-sex behavior is more accepted, particularly on campus, and proving that you're "cool enough" to kiss another girl without worrying that your peers will question your sexuality is an example of how open our sexual culture has become. But is this staged bisexuality really a testament to a type of hypersexualized girl power -- or a statement on how far gals will go to please a generation of guys weaned on online porn? And what does it mean to girls who are actually coming out as queer to see straight girls playing bi for male pleasure?
"When girls talk to me about kissing each other at parties, it's invariably in the context of boys chanting "Kiss, kiss!" says Sabrina Weill, former editor in chief of Seventeen and author of "The Real Truth About Teens and Sex." "There's no formal research that asks girls whether it's happening more now. However, anecdotally, it does seem to be talked about more." Precise numbers may not be available, but a well-publicized National Center for Health Statistics study released in September 2005 found that 10.6 percent of girls age 15-19 had had same-sex sexual experiences; the survey did not ask whether the conduct was a result of actual desire, though. In any event, girl-on-girl action seems to be no big deal for high school and college students, who shrug it off as standard party behavior. Alexandra says she sees it at "75 to 85 percent" of the parties she attends. Jay, a 17-year-old senior at a Manhattan high school, says he sees it at "every other party." Alexandra's friend Mikey, 19, also in Bellingham, says such action has been a party staple since he was 14. "Just about every party I go to or have, I see girls making out with each other," he says.
"It's definitely a good, well-worn, tried-and-true route to hooking up with a guy that you want," Julie says. "It's not giving him a lap dance and stripping on a pole for him, but it's showing him that you can be open, and if that's what he likes, that's what you'll do. Which makes him think you're better to sleep with than the 100 other girls in the room with you."